It happens to all of us. Even if you make healthy choices about what you put in your body, filling up with leafy greens, quinoa, and organic grass-fed meat, sometimes you end the day with…a food baby. No matter what you do, you can’t seem to get rid of that uncomfortable puffy, bloated feeling. What gives?
The symptoms of bloating range from uncomfortable to just plain gross. Gastrointestinal distress, stomach aches, pressure, excess gas, sensitivity, and a general swollen feeling are all common signs of bloating. But what causes this annoying reaction and how can you get rid of bloating when it does strike?
Your Body is Telling You Something
Bloating is a major symptom of food allergies and sensitivities. You may not be plagued with full on Celiac disease, but gluten can cause inflammation throughout your body. Inflammation and aggravation of your stomach lining equals lots of GI distress in the form of stomach aches and bloating. Especially if you feel like your body is swollen, inflammation and allergies could be the cause. Other common food allergens that most don’t even realize affect them:
Dairy can trigger a reaction from the lactase enzyme it carries (you know this commonly as lactose intolerance) or casein, a protein found in milk. Whey, another protein found in dairy, can also cause bloat and indigestion. If you use whey protein in your morning shake, make sure it’s a high quality blend of whey isolate protein to avoid bloat.
Eggs are a common source of allergy and intolerance for many.
Fructose, the fruit sugar, is also an allergy that lots of people don’t realize they have. You might think that your stomach is bloated because of the fiber found in fruit, but fructose could be the answer to your stomach pain and discomfort.
Blame Your Sugar-Free Gum Addiction
Sugar-free gum is doubly responsible for bloating for two major reasons: you’re swallowing air and gas as you chew, and the alcohol based sweeteners that make your gum sugar-free emit gas in your gut.
Cut Back on Soda, Carbonation, and Excess Chewing
When you swallow those little carbonation bubbles, they’ve gotta pop somewhere! It might sound like slowing down on your intake of soda and limiting yourself to one piece of gum a day might not make a difference, but over time the excess gas that builds up in your stomach can cause lots of problems. Even cutting down a tiny bit can make a visual difference in stomach bloat.
Use alcohol-based sweeteners in moderation
A little goes a long way with these sweeteners, as they can be upwards of 100 times sweeter than refined sugar. You can tell if an artificial sweetener is alcohol-based because it ends in ‘-ol’; common sugar alcohols are mannitol, sorbitol, xylitol, lactitol, isomalt, and maltitol. Overuse of these sugars can cause bloating, gas, and even diarrhea.
If you feel bloat coming on, fight it preemptively!
- Peppermint oil can get things moving. Peppermint oil has been shown to help reduce the muscle spasms in your digestive tract that contribute to bloating, and you can take it in pill or in oil form to help your tummy stay happy.
- Probiotics help the good bacteria in your stomach. Over-production of bacteria due to allergy or diet create gas in your gut, but supplementing with probiotics can help your gut flora normalize and your stomach flatten.
- Fermented foods can also help. Probiotics and prebiotics are found in fermented foods like sauerkraut, kombucha, miso, and tempeh. Adding a few of these foods regularly into your eating plan will keep bloat at bay.
Bloating is annoying and uncomfortable, but no need to let it disrupt your life. Keep these tips in your pocket and you can say bye-bye to bloat for good.
Illustration by Karley Koenig